FRIDAY, July 17 — Protesters who have been pushing for weeks to defund the Lansing Police Department have called for police assistance at least twice over the last month.
And Paul Birdsong, the de facto spokesman for “We the Free People of Lansing,” told City Pulse that he’s done waiting on the local cops and could soon start taking matters into his own hands. Either way, Birdsong said, he expects to be vilified for his behavior.
“If I punch or pull a gun, you all demonize me. If I let the slave catchers handle it, you guys say I’m a hypocrite,” Birdsong told City Pulse. “I’m to the point where I’m not waiting on the slave catchers no more, and I’m not listening to anyone’s ideas of how to handle it no more either.”
Late last month, a Free People protester — a “white ally,” according to Birdsong — called the police to report that the group’s nightly march was being followed by a suspicious group of people. The unidentified caller told cops that someone also hit one of the protesters with a rock, police said.
Cops quickly arrived on scene to diffuse the situation. No charges resulted.
The incident has since developed into an ongoing internal investigation after one of the officers told a woman at the scene to “shut her mouth” after she interrupted an interview with Birdsong. Police sent out a press release about the relatively routine dispatch call the following day.
Not all officer discourtesy complaints warrant a press release, but an LPD spokesman said it was only an attempt to clear up “rumors and false information” that had spread on social media.
It also pointed to the inescapable irony of a “defund the police” protest contacting police for help.
Earlier this week, Birdsong’s crew again dialed for police assistance following allegations from Birdsong that he was struck by a Capital Area Transportation Authority bus on Capitol Avenue. It was the second call from his group to the Lansing Police Department within the last 30 days.
Birdsong told the Lansing State Journal that the bus refused to move around protesters and eventually hit him as the group attempted to keep the bus from driving down the lane of traffic. LPD is still investigating the recent incident, which has been classified as a “simple assault.”
Birdsong told City Pulse that those calls were made only because his “white allies” had asked him to give officers a chance to prove their worth before he resorts to using a loaded rifle to defend himself on city streets — like he has done in the past against unarmed drivers across Lansing.
Those calls for police assistance, however, will no longer be made, Birdsong emphasized.
“Fuck police and anybody that’s not fighting to free blacks from systemic oppression,” he said.
Birdsong also threatened to somehow prohibit this reporter from covering his demonstrations — and march to the City Pulse office — if any part of his recent statement was omitted from this story.
An LPD spokesman told City Pulse that two complaints have been filed over one of Birdsong’s protesters’ pointing a rifle at an unarmed motorcyclist during a nightly march sometime last month. The case has been forwarded to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
Local cops also recognize that it’s technically illegal to block up city streets without a permit, but officers have instead been “using discretion,” an LPD spokesman said. Local cops have helped to block traffic and kept their distance for weeks rather than issue any tickets or make arrests.
Meanwhile, protests that once numbered dozens and included highly publicized marches to Mayor Andy Schor’s house have tapered off in recent weeks. It’s unclear if they’ll continue.